Jabulani gets new arts platform for the youth
"Sowetans will view stories about themselves and new ones that will inspire the youth"
THE Jabulani Amphitheatre was the main attraction before the newly built Soweto Theatre.
The amphitheatre still stands 60 years later beside the new and world class creative arena that will open its doors today.
The history and heritage of Soweto will continue on the three stages of the boxed theatre that boasts a 436-seat main venue with an end stage, fully provided with wings, orchestra pit, fly tower and buttress.
It has two smaller venues of 190 and 90 seats, an indoor foyer area that connects all three venues, multi-level change-rooms, storage rooms, a greenroom and an outdoor covered plaza that will serve as an additional informal performing space.
Looking back into the colourful life of the amphitheatre, Soweto's greats shared their fondest memories of a place they still hold close to their hearts.
Playwright and director Sam Mhangwane of the 1960s theatre hit Unfaithful Woman said: "We used to hold music festivals at the amphitheatre. It was a good place, especially for traditional music, conveniently located next to a hostel."
Mhangwane said that the concerts featured the likes of Johnny Clegg, Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse, Chicco and Yvonne Chaka-Chaka.
"The place was always spilling over with people. I miss the hub of music that kept us away from the streets." He said the youth of today need a culture of festivals so that they stop indulging in crime.
Mhangwane said the opening of the Soweto Theatre was long overdue.
Music executive Peter Tladi, who recorded great artists such as Brenda Fassie and Rebecca Malope, said: "Big shows used to happen there. Come Sunday, we all knew that African venue where one could enjoy tradition."
Of the new landmark, Tladi said that it was an effort to bring the theatre to the people in the township.
"It was problematic going into town for theatre. Transport was the biggest disadvantage," he said. "Now all we need is good writers to write about us and celebrate us while we're still alive. I would like to go to the theatre myself."
Welcome Msomi, accomplished author, playwright and director, said: "Jabulani theatre was popular with rallies and theatre. There were no big theatres in Soweto that were well equipped, so if you needed a crowd, that's where you would go. My play Umabatha (an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth in isiZulu) first showed there."
Msomi said the new theatre will enable young playwrights and directors to stage their productions on a professional stage and hopes the people of Soweto will enjoy a Market Theatre-type experience. "Sowetans will view stories about themselves and new ones that will inspire the youth," he said.
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